Out of all of the Fortune 500 CEOs, Warren Buffett probably spends more time talking to the media than all of them. Known as the “Oracle of Omaha”, people are constantly turning to Buffett for advice on everything from stocks to business, finances, and even politics. He also frequently engages in discussions and during Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholder’s Meetings, he engaged in a 5 hour question and answer session.
In short, Buffett spends a vast amount of his time talking to people. But he wasn’t always comfortable with public speaking. In fact, he used to become so nervous before speaking engagements that he would throw up before even getting up to talk. However, he took a Dale Carnegie course and overcame those fears.
So, to help others suffering from the same public speaking fear as Buffett, here are five communication tricks Buffett frequently uses:
1. Talk about what you love
If you stick to topics that you’re actually interested in, you’ll find talking is much easier and your natural passion for the subject will shine through. Additionally, you probably already know more about what you are interested in, meaning you’ll be able to give more information and be more confident.
Warren Buffett absolutely loves stocks and finances and it clearly shows whenever you see him talking with someone about his company or investing in general.
2. Slow down
When most people are nervous, the natural reaction is to talk faster. However, this doesn’t actually help anything and will leave you sounding breathless and make your voice higher pitched. Before you start to talk, take three deep breaths and force yourself to slow down. Don’t forget to explain things during your speeches either!
Warren Buffett talks rather slowly and at a measured pace. If you watch him, when he’s asked a question, he always pauses a few moments to collect his thoughts before answering. When he does answer, his tone and pace are always slow and methodical.
3. Have positive body language
When you’re speaking, stand or sit up straight and maintain eye contact. If you often talk with your hands, don’t hesitate to do that as well (just try and avoid gesturing too much). Also maintain eye contact. Studies show that doing these things will help you seem more competent.
Warren Buffett is excellent at all of these things. When doing an interview, he often keeps eye contact with the interviewer, and he keeps his hand gestures small and precise with speaking.
4. Be engaged
Strangely enough, an important part of being good at public speaking is active listening. This means not only maintaining eye contact with the person (or people) you’re talking to, but also listening to what they say. When you’re nervous or excited, it’s easy to lose focus and want to talk more than you listen, but a good public speaker knows this is not how to win at speaking engagements.
When Warren Buffett conducts question and answer sessions, he’ll often stop and focus entirely on the person asking the question. Sometimes he’ll even repeat part of the question to show that he was actively listening and cares about the query. This oft-overlooked skill is one of the most important for interviews and similar situations.
5. Say the other person’s name
One of the lessons in the Dale Carnegie class that Buffett graduated from years ago is that to most people, “his or her name is the sweetest sound in any language.” People will instinctively pay more attention if you say their name when chatting. While you won’t want to overuse their name, adding that into your speech or conversation can really help move things along and make you look better.
Warren Buffett frequently addresses his coworkers and interviewers by their first name when speaking, as a way of showing respect and that he is actively engaged in the conversation.